Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) Trip & Race Report
– by FatBird Anthony
Photo Credits: Run Society, ShaoFei, Mohan, Marathon-Photos


12-Week Operation Kookaburra GCAM Training
We started training and preparations for Gold Coast Airport Marathon (GCAM) in early April with the kick-off of the 12-week Operation Kookaburra, our signature training program for Singapore-based marathoners attempting GCAM Personal Bests (PB) and Boston Qualifiers (BQ).  The first 40 who signed up for the Run Gold Coast package from Scenic Travel received the training for free as an incentive, while a few marathoners paid for training to prepare for other races in the June-Aug period.

We had a good build up with lots of long basebuild, steady and pace runs to sufficiently condition our runners for their quests at GCAM17.  It was nice to see a number of returning trainees coming back to better their GCAM performances from the past few years.

Returning For Yet another Personal Best (PB) and Boston Qualifier (BQ) target
In addition to conducting the Kookaburra training, I was also signed up for GCAM17 marathon in a bid to secure my Boston ticket for 2018 – I had planned to revisit Boston Marathon after giving 2017’s edition a break (which I qualified for at GCAM16 with 3h24min).

So, I had a dual mission of providing training to Kookaburras as well as getting in race-ready condition for a reasonable shot for PB at GCAM17.  As I will ‘advance’ into a new age group in 2018, my qualifying criteria would be easier with an addition of 10min to 3h40min in the 55-59 age group.


Travel with FatBirds to Gold Coast

A pre-departure briefing was held to a large crowd of Singapore participants 3 weeks before we left for Gold Coast, including those who have signed up with Scenic Travel.  We gave the usual tips of what to prepare for cool-weather marathon-ing, and also invited a few who did not manage to get onto the Kookaburra training program to join us for our final Tapering runs.  These participants benefited from that 1-2 runs and eventually did very well at GCAM17.

New hotel at the Mantra Legends – breakfast is great
After landing on Friday and doing brunch and shopping at Pacific Fair, picking up our race packs at the Race Expo, we were whisked to a smooth check in at the Mantra Legends.

The Mantra is just a stone’s throw away from my past favourite Grand Chancellor (renamed to Novotel) and has an awesome breakfast spread to my liking.  My room is comfortable and spacious, with even an oven, coking stove and utensils provided…nice!


Carbo Loading Welcome Dinner
The team gathered for our customary carbo loading dinner at the Fables Restaurant in the hotel to a nice spread of seafood, Mexican and Asian delights.  Carbo loading and indulgence had reached a new level.

We retired early for the night to get in a shakeout run the next morning, before more carb loading at the Legends lunch.  I piled on more protein of chicken and fish in addition to the few eggs for breakfast, to top the carbs that was loaded the night before.  I must have gained 1-2kg after all the eating, which should give me ample firepower for Sunday’s race.


Conditioning Run

I organized a 5km shakeout run on Saturday for the runners in our team to have a feel for race weather conditions as well as to calm their nerves a little.  It was well attended by the enthusiastic bunch, many who were first time GCAM participants that have trained with Team FatBird and are looking to get their PBs and BQs here.

We had a nice run along the Surfers Paradise beach front in comfortable weather, followed by a great breakfast spread back at the hotel.


Race Day
As usual, I haven’t been sleeping much for the past few nights due to the dry weather and ‘foreign bed’ syndrome.  I wasn’t too worried as I have had sufficient rest back home before traveling for this race.  I was carbo loading and fuel-ing right up to race morning according to plan.  Just that this time I added much more protein in addition to the base carb-loading I had always been accustomed to.

Although there were warnings of an impending cold draft on race day, we were fortunate to be blessed with the same marathon-conducive weather as previous years.  The team gathered early and were transferred by coach to the race site before the flag off of the Half Marathon at 6:00am.  All the marathoners were huddled in the Tourism Events Queensland (TEQ) SEA tent for warmth and comfort, preparing for final top up of isotonic drinks and bananas.  I did a light warm up and some strides just to get the engine lubricated sufficiently for a start at target race pace, which was 4:45min/km for a 3h20min goal.

The few of us had planned to go with the Pacers at 3:10h (Carlos, Ren Gang), 3:20h (Anthony, Robin, Han Chee), 3:30h (Yian Soon) and 4:00h (Alice, Chee Peng, Kong soon, Daphne) with the rest adopting positions in the spacious pens just behind their respective Pacers.

The marathon race was flagged off promptly at 7:20am after the Australian National Anthem.  The start was a tad congested by some runners finding their paces and getting warmed up.  It took about 1km to settle in and by then, the 3:20h Pacers which I was eyeing was ahead by 100m.  I settled into 4:45 min/km pace before moving up to 4:40 min/km pace to close the gap with the Pacers.

I found Han Chee slightly in front and signaled to him with a thumbs up.  I passed and he ran slightly behind me for the next 20km before having to do a toilet break due to a bad stomach.  Han Chee’s momentum was broken by a few more toilet stops subsequently, causing him to miss his BQ target.  Meanwhile, I kept my sights on the 3:20h Pacers, who seemed to be running faster at 4:40 min/km pace instead of 4:45 min/km.

Although I had only 2 hours of sleep the previous night, I felt sufficiently strong to maintain 4:40 min/km pace till I closed the gap with the Pacers at the 21km mid- point.  As always, the course was well supported with drinks and enthusiastic supporters out to cheer the runners with high-fives and shouts of encouragement.  It is one of the distinctive highlights of the GCAM and why it is such a favourite with the record crowd of Singapore marathoners.

I saw a number of Singapore runners on both sides of the road along the way, including our national elite marathoner Ashley Liew who was looking blazingly good.  With the sun beating down intensely, a number of runners were slowing slightly, including the Pacers to their targeted 4:45 min/km pace.  I finally caught the Pacers at about the 28km mark before running alongside them for about 2km.

I ingested gels and electrolytes according to plan and it seemed to keep the cramps away, and providing me sufficient energy to maintain pace.  Although I could go to 4:35 min/km pace, I decided to play it safe and be happy with just doing 3:20h which would have been already a PB for me.  I was feeling good through to the return back to Southport at 31km before tackling the final 10-11km, which was the more challenging portion of the entire course.

As we ran past the cheering MC and spectators, and leaving their voices in the distance, runners who had been pushing the pace were paying the price with cramps and dropping of speed.  I felt strong and continued to overtake more runners before encountering some twitches at the toes and left feet at the 35km mark.  I adjusted my stride slightly and slowed by 3-5s/km to let the twitches ease and it did help.  I popped an extra electrolyte tab for the finishing stretch.

A quick glance at my watch at the 40km mark showed that I was 2min below a 3h20min finish.  I was quietly confident of completing in 3:17 or 3:18, which would have been a good PB and the first time I went below 3:20h in any marathon race.  The final 1km was exciting with all the cheers from the crowd, and at the turn with 250m remaining, I ran tall and proud with long strides to clear the finish in 3h 18min 08sec nett time.

I was happy with how I ran the race, especially with a negative split of about 1min (1:39h for the first half) and (1:38h for the final half).  The pace was also pretty consistent throughout the 42km.

This is a marathon Personal Best of more than 6min from my GCAM16’s timing of 3:24:28, and also qualifies me for Boston Marathon by more than 20min – I needed 3:40h for Boston Marathon 2018 as I move into a new age group of 55-59.  I met Robin at the finish who did a massive Personal Best of 3h17min.  Carlos did an outstanding 3h05min and Ren Gang (the China Kookaburra who did 3h11min) to qualify for Boston 2018 and we were already discussing plans to attend Boston together.

Yian Soon also BQed with a 3h39min timing.  85% of the Fatbirds (Alice, Daphne, Chee Peng, Nelson, Josephine) and Kookaburas (Linda, Mong Teng) just to name a few achieved PBs, with many shaving off massive timings of 20-30min or more from their previous bests.  Such was what a good course and conducive weather can do for marathon timings, and GCAM has always been able to deliver where it matter.

This year also saw a breast to the tape by a Japanese newcomer, Takuya Noguchi, who unseated defending Champion Mungara with a strong kick at the final 250m bend for an exciting finish.  Marathon idol Yuki Kawauchi finished in a close 3rd with a strong 2:09 timing.


Gratitude & Thanks

The mood at the TEQ SEA tent was celebratory with many happy FatBirds, Kookaburras and Team Singapore marathoners who traveled together with Scenic Travel.  We would like to thank the GCAM organizers for executing another immaculate race, Stella and Khim from Tourism Queensland who were supportive throughout, and Scenic Travel staff (Shem and Janet) for always being there to meet all the runners’ needs and to ensure that our races went without any hitches.

A shout out and kudos to all of them for making our GCAM race a golden and memorable one.

We will surely be back for GCAM 2018 with even more participants from Singapore.


Run Kookaburras, Run Kookaburras, Gold Our Race Has Been!